History of GAP
The region of Southeastern Anatolia extending over wide plains in the basins of the lower Euphrates and the Tigris covers the administrative provinces of Adiyaman, Batman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Kilis, Mardin, Siirt, Sanliurfa and Sirnak. The region is bordered by Syria to the south and Iraq to the southeast. The surface area of the region is 75,358 square kilometres constituting 9.7 % of the total surface area of the country. Turkey has 8.5 million hectares of irrigable land and about 20 % of this land is in Southeastern Anatolia.
Coined as "Fertile Crescent" or "Upper Mesopotamia", the region is also commonly referred to as "cradle of civilisations." Throughout history, the region served as a bridge connecting Anatolia with Mesopotamia.
The two major rivers of Turkey, the Euphrates and the Tigris, flow through Southeastern Anatolia. Originating from Eastern Anatolia, both of these rivers flow to the Persian Gulf. Compared to other geographical regions in the country, Southeastern Anatolia receives less precipitation. Hence plans have been made to harness the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris for irrigation and hydraulic energy production purposes.
The original idea regarding the rational utilisation of these rich water resources belongs to Ataturk. In the early years of the Republic when strenuous efforts were being made for change and development in all fields, electricity emerged as an urgent and critical need of the country. Then, upon the directive of Ataturk, the "Administration for Electricity Studies" was established in 1936 with the main purpose of hydraulic energy production from these water resources otherwise flowing in vain. The Administration launched its studies within the framework of "Keban Project" first, which entailed the establishment of observation stations along the course of the Euphrates to assess various aspects of its flow. In 1938 geological and topographical surveys were started in the Keban Pass. From 1950 to 1960, the Administration gave weight to drillings along the courses of the two rivers. Upon the emergence of new needs, the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSİ) was established in 1954. It was with the establishment of the DSİ that the idea of basin-based surveys first emerged. Consequently, Turkey was divided into 26 major water basins on which the DSİ launched its survey and planning work. On the basis of work conducted by the "Firat Planning Authority" established in Diyarbakir in 1961, the "Euphrates Basin Exploration Report" was prepared in 1964, assessing the irrigation and hydraulic energy potential of the Euphrates Basin. The "Lower Euphrates Exploration Report" followed in 1966. Meanwhile, the DSİ Diyarbakır Directorate conducted work parallel to these for the Tigris Basin.
These survey and studies brought clarity to the ways of utilizing the potential of the basins of the Euphrates and the Tigris. In 1980, projects related to these two basins were jointly named as the "Southeastern Anatolia Project." In 1986, the State Planning Organisation (SPO) was given the task of addressing the development issues of the region within the framework of integrated regional planning and coordinating various development activities and efforts in the region.
Then comes the Law Decree no. 388, which was published in the Official Journal no 20334, dated 6 November 1989, officially declaring the establishment of the "Southeastern Anatolia Regional Development Administration". The mandate of this new organisation included the following: To materialise or ensure the materialisation of investment and services in the fields of planning, infrastructure, licensing, housing, industry, mining, agriculture, energy, transportation and others needed for the rapid development of areas covered by the Southeastern Anatolia Project; To take relevant measures to uplift the educational level and attainment of people in the region and to ensure coordination among organisations and agencies working in these fields in the region concerned. The GAP Higher Board is the highest decision making authority in the organisation, which examines and decides on all related plans, projects and programmes. The board is chaired by the Prime Minister or a State Minister designated by the former, and composed of State Minister in Charge of GAP, State Minister in charge of SPO, Minister of Public Works and Settlement and Minister of Agriculture as members.
Beyond dams, hydraulic power plants and irrigation facilities on the Euphrates and the Tigris, the Southeastern Anatolia Project represents a comprehensive regional development effort based on a multi-sector, integrated and sustainable development approach targeting the full-fledged development of the region including investments and services in urban and rural infrastructure, transportation, industry education, health, housing, tourism and various other sectors.
Upon the completion of the project, facilities on the Euphrates and the Tigris, which together flow more than 50 billion cubic meters of water a year, will bring 28% of the total water potential of Turkey under control, introduce irrigated farming to a land extending over 1.7 million hectares and annually produce 27 billion kWh hydraulic energy with an installed capacity of 7476 megawatt.
The agricultural and industrial potential of the region boosted through the GAP will raise the income level of the region fivefold and create employment for about 3.8 million people in the region.
It is the primary task of the GAP Administration to plan and carry out all development related activities in the region in line with specified objectives, targets and strategies and within the framework of a "comprehensive and integrated planning approach", which covers all social and economic sectors. This comprehensive planning approach is intended to inform decision makers about the directions and magnitudes of development, to interlink all project components and to draw concrete frameworks by assessing investments in economic and social sectors in their temporal and spatial dimensions. The GAP Master Plan is the major guide in this respect. Ongoing and planned projects will improve urban infrastructures and enhance the population absorption capacity of urban settlements. Furthermore, by mobilizing regional resources, a stable economic growth will be ensured to further boost exports from the region. The total cost of the GAP is estimated as 32 billion US dollars, which makes it the largest regional development effort ever launched in Turkey. As of 2003, about 16.6 billion US dollars have already been spent for the project.
From an integrated project to sustainable human development;
Universal norms adopted in the process have transformed the GAP from an integrated regional development plan to a regional development project carried out on the basis of the philosophy of sustainable human development.
Now development and growth in the context of GAP are defined in terms of such indicators as average life expectancy, infant mortality rate, literacy rate, duration in participation to education, accessibility of health services, closing region and gender-based welfare gaps, quality of life and sustainability.
While, as an integrated project, the GAP used to be carried out as a pack consisting of public investments, the concept of sustainable human development introduced private sector investments and individuals as decision makers and actors directly involved in the process.
In practice, the concept of sustainability has three footholds: Participation by the State, private sector and people. The target is to consolidate State led infrastructure investments further with the participation of the private sector and people, and thus to impart all projects to the daily lives of people living in the region.
This approach is not solely a reflection of a desire for fair development; It is also the result of a sound diagnosis that mobilisation of existing potentials in underdeveloped regions will significantly contribute to the realisation of such national goals as economic growth, social stability and boosting exports. In short, the GAP brings civilisation back to the Upper Mesopotamia.